San Francisco News Letter/February 20, 1869
“Hear the crier!” “What the devil art thou?”
“One that will play the devil. sir, with you.”
On last Monday evening the House Carpenters’ Eight-Hour League held a meeting at Dashaway Hall, and burned half a bunch of fire-crackers to celebrate the decision of Judge Sawyer in the matter of the street contracts. Amidst general booziness, the following resolutions were unanimously adopted: Resolved, That we learn with great satisfaction that Judge Sawyer—whose name betrays the honest calling of his ancestors, and links him to us with bands of serrated steel—has sustained the eight-hour law with a decision which our drivers tell us is a marvel of profundity; and, therefore, Resolved, That it is a marvel of profundity. Resolved, That we sincerely thank Col. M. C. Smith for his course throughout, and although we do not clearly understand what that course has been, Resolved, That it was a course of marvelous wisdom. Resolved, That, as directed, we congratulate the laborers of this city, and the eight-hour gentlemen mechanics generally, upon the failure of this high-handed attempt of certain contractors to keep us in our place; and, Resolved, That we won’t keep in our place. Resolved, That we don’t know our place, but have been told that it is a marvelously honorable one; and hence, Resolved, That it is a marvelously honorable one. Resolved, Finally, that our persons may be generally unsavory, but there is no impugning our clean cheek.
In view of the fact that Andrew Johnson’s term is near its close, the Town Crier has prepared a number of reviews of his official career, suitable for leading articles, which he will dispose of to the dailies at a reasonable figure. They are of all grades of excellence, and in character range from judiciously laudatory to unmistakably vituperative. The subject of these wonderful essays is compared variously and impartially to Caligula, Nero, Napoleon, Washington, Touissant l’Ouverture and Geo. Francis Train. They all conclude with a graceful allusion to the coming man’s administration; confident for Republican sheets, for Democratic, hopeful. We ask our readers’ attention to these remarkable articles, as they shall appear in the columns of the leading dailies from March 4th to 6th, inclusive. All communications strictly confidential. It is not necessary for editors to give their age, nor enclose photographs; the name of their paper is quite sufficient. [Examiner, take note. We have one for you, but shall require you to give bonds not to divulge its authorship; there is a law bearing upon this thing.]
Our enterprising contemporary, the Call, in its musical column, some time ago, threw out the hint that Parepa had a baby. Everybody thought it meant a little baby, and a new baby. We hasten to correct the error, and to say that this was a very careless interpretation of a very modest announcement in the Call. This was merely a careless and bashful way of saying that that artist had a baby, to be sure, but then readers were expected to ask, what is that baby? Thereupon, in the musical column of the Call, which is written by the musical critic of the Call (our friend and whilom admirer), would have prepared an answer thus: “Do you ask what is Parepa’s baby? Then I will tell you what is Parepa’s baby. It is not a new baby, nor an old baby; it is not a female baby, and not a baby of any consequence; yet it is a baby after all, and nothing but a baby. Parepa’s baby is the musical critic of the Call. I earned the title by faithful and arduous labor during her late opera season here, and I have kept it up by abusing almost everybody but her. I shall do so until she returns, and I am a very nice baby. Am I anything else?”
The White Piners we believe to be a people religiously educated in their youth and piously inclined in their maturity. They have two towns. The first they come to is Hamilton, set away up among the hills. Then they go a mile or two higher up toward heaven, and pretty near the top of the mountains, and as high up as they can expect to go, and just where they all expect to find their treasures laid up “where moth doth not corrupt,” you will find what they have modestly called their Treasure City. There is more in the naming those two cities thus than most people outside of Oakland suspect. Over there some of them know this, that speaking personally, when you get up as high in the moral and religious world as Brother Hamilton, you have got to about as high a place as people in this world expect to get. If you expect to get any higher, you might as well get aboard the next heavenward-moving horse-railroad and go on to the Great Treasure City that everybody wants to reach, where thieves do not break through nor steal. It has taken us a week to solve this enigma.
If our friend Canavan has no more discretion that to come right out with the story of municipal stealing, he will ruin the business of supervisors, and make honest men think it will not be a disgrace to be a member of the city government. We cannot help uttering this timely warning, for if put-up jobs are going to be exposed, and the very best opportunities for making fortunes out of stupid and unsuspicious citizens are to be spoiled by such impertinent decency and honesty, what the devil will become of Stanyan and Clement, and that person named Smythe, now unhappily called from his life-long obscurity? The member from the Eleventh told such a tale as would have made angels weep, if there had been any present; but in their absence the member from the Fifth, being as near an angel as a supervisor may be, gently filled the vacancy, and allowed the multitudinous tear-drops unbidden to flow. But Ashbury’s gushing tears could not wash the moral raiment of that municipal body as white as snow. If they could, we would say, let them gush.
What a pretty pass our city government has reached. They can never meet to have a quiet little confab over public matters, but Nunan will come. Why not stay away some evening, Nunan, and let us see how pleasant it would be not to hear your voice? We can always see the vacancy in your face, which all nature abhors; let us once see the vacancy in your chair. It would be well enough if you could only get over the idea that you have got to bore your fellow-citizens with what you consider a hundred dollars’ worth of talk every month. You could earn your salary in some much easier way, we should think. And then you see, that your talk is so confoundly cheap that we have to take such a mighty sight of it before we get our hundred dollars’ worth. Much better hold your tongue awhile, or, if you don’t know what to do, watch Stanyan or Shattuck, or some other disinterested official, and if you catch them once doing their duty, without making a piece out of it, just make a note of it.
General Winn thinks he is winner at last. He has found an immense Daniel sitting in the Judgment Seat, who has declared that, will he nill he, no laborer shall work for the corporation more than eight hours per day. If he does, nobody shall pay him for any work he has done. That must be “crowner’s quest law,” and Dogberry, himself, the author and utterer of it. If Winn should want to buy of you a bit’s worth of cheese, and you should magnanimously give him twice his money’s worth, this most Christian Judge would refuse to compel him to pay anything for it, because forsooth, you gave him too much. Oh, most righteous and learned judge! We mind us of thy great genius and learning, whilom when erst we were before thee for justice. This law will last just long enough for it to take the trip to Sacramento, whence it will never return. Then we shall hear Winn howl again.
We note with pleasure the arrival of the ship Zunga, from Malaga, bringing to John Parrott, Esq., a couple of fine jacks, three splendid mules, two merino rams, a deuce of merino sheep, and a pair of merino kids. We understand that $4,000 have been offered for the rams, but this choice collection of stock is not to be given away. There was a purpose in their importation. We should say that John would take naturally to Jacks, and we expect great practicable results to the agricultural interests of the state. Now, considering the prospects of the increase of such stock, some of our acquaintances might take the hint and observe, that it will not, probably, be necessary for them to continue longer to make such asses of themselves.
At a late spiritualist soiree in Philadelphia, one young woman executed a lively dance with the spirit of Benjamin Franklin. This looks authentic. The naughty old Puritan, when in the flesh, led several young women a lively dance. By the way, Geo. Washington’s biographers have not made a practice of mentioning what he was doing when he caught that cold which ended his career. He remained out too late in the damp of the evening, hastening the departure of his overseer, whom he had dispatched to Washington. That was all; he caught cold. Elderly gentlemen ought not to expose themselves in this way to the damp of the evening, with their pores all open.
A religious weekly, reproaching its lukewarm contemporaries, says: “It fills our heart with sorrow to think of the punishment in store for our slipshod brethren of the religious press. It is sad to think that the golden glories of the resurrection morning will be darkened by the sombre spectacle of a mighty angel, with the NEWS LETTER spread out upon his knees, reading the numberless indictments against these editors, and checking them off with a lead pencil; while a benevolent old gentleman, his face wreathed in smiles, stands patiently by with the later volumes under his arm.” We have not the heart to quote further.
It must be highly gratifying to the disinterestedly loyal who so manfully opposed the Specific Contract Law in this State as being unconstitutional and injurious to learn that after its beneficial workings for years in California, it has been found by the Supreme Court to be not only eminently constitutional, but to actually be the law of the land. These zealous patriots have one consolation to them; they can stand back with their fingers in their mouths and say: We meant well, anyhow. Yes. Poor patriots, they meant well; and in not hanging the rest of us for treason, because they had not the power, they really did well.
The Rev. Dr. Thomas has declined to come back to his people. We are pleased to note, that after appropriate weeping, they have sent for another good muscular baptist. It has leaked out that his people were inclined to free baptism too frequently. Thomas hadn’t the muscle, and the church were really getting poor from too large soap bills. It is a mean thing for people to live at the free lunch but when they come to depend on their minister for the weekly ablution, soap and towels included, he must be a very muscular Christian. What would the great unwashed do in this town without a first class Baptist church to go to?
We have received a pamphlet devoted to the prophesy interest, entitled “What is Truth?”—a conundrum, to the solution of which a careful perusal its contents fails to afford a clue. The author is John R. Beasley—Phoebus, what name!—and he says “the resurrected Saints are to rule the nations with a rod of iron for a thousand years.” Not while the NEWS LETTER exists, Mr. Beasley; we shall kill that little swindle. In concluding, the author speaks thus irreverently of the Scriptures: “May the Lord help us to believe;” and that is just what we lack of the pamphlet.
Wanted.—Three first-class hero-worshipers, gentlemen of honest enthusiasm, for three first-class daily papers. They will be expected to write a leading article each, per day, laudatory of one U. S. Grant. No previous knowledge of the man’s antecedents required, and no literary ability expected. Unlimited capacity for fulsome dreariness absolutely essential. Upon those days in which less than six of Grant’s private opinions are telegraphed across the continent, the writers will be allowed a half-holiday. Salary nothing, but expenses paid to Washington after the Fourth of March.
All the conservatives, including the democrats, are rejoicing at the attitude which General Grant seems to have taken in his recent long speech on having learned for the first time that he had been elected President of the United States. Up to the time of that speech, Nunan and some other talkers in town thought they were greater men than Grant, because they were accustomed to talk a great more and say, possibly, a great deal less. Ten to one that Grant don’t care a fig whether he pleases the conservatives, the democrats, the rads, or Nunan.
Mr. Times, we have detected you in a clumsy swindle, perpetrated unblushingly upon your readers. Your critic never wrote that notice of the last lecture before the Christian Youngsters, about pictures and things. It was written by the critical ninny of the Call, and it’s just like him. How do we know this? We know everything. Moreover, the dunce describes things that did not take place. Likewise he was not at the lecture. Furthermore, he is a snob.
Charley Felton, U.S. Sub-Treasurer, advertises one million dollars gold to exchange against Legal Tenders; the latter have advanced two per cent. There appears to have been a little Ring who got “early information” of the move, and will turn an honest penny. It is gratifying however to perceive that the Washington jolterheads have at least consented to restore to our body politic a part of the golden blood which they suck from it.
The primary and true object of the Common School System is to confer upon all the benefits of what is known as a “common English education,” free of expense.—Call. [Will the Call kindly explain in what these benefits consist. Let us have the light of thy experience, neighbor.]
That was a wicked thing the correspondent of the Times said about Jack Stratman’s entry into Washington: “There was no public demonstration on his arrival.” Are there no Grant Invincibles in that city to fire a few sausage-stuffers in honor of the hirsute hero?
It is supposed that John J. Cisco, of New York, will be Secretary of the Treasury under Grant. We sincerely trust that he will be, but have a kind of presentiment that he and Secretary MacCrellish will disagree from the very first.
John Devine, “The Chicken,” has been sent up for burglary. His right hand having offended, was some time ago cut off and cast from him. Having sinned again, it is high time that his whole body be cast into San Quentin.
Smart shocks of earthquake occurred in San Francisco and San Jose on the morning of February 13th—Sacramento Union. [Very smart shocks, indeed; like the smart thieves we receive from Sacramento, they get off without being detected.]
Lame Pete had one whisker stolen clandestinely this week while asleep. Knoop stole it and then left town. Pete will not be warranted in arresting Knoop unless he can catch him, which he can’t. Knoop is a hair-rant knave.
The Occident calls the Rev. Mr. Hamilton’s pamphlet “ a sugar coated pill.” Considering the healthy commotion it has caused in the bowels of the Presbyterian Church, the comparison is not bad. The Occident itself is an emetic.
It was definitely ascertained in the trial of Smith for the murder of Captain Mitchell, that both he and his pal, Savage, read the Chronicle. If they are acquitted of murder, it is hoped they may be convicted of that.
Nearly all our religious exchanges are engaged in discussing the subject of methodizing and enlarging church contributions.—Occident. [Well, what should they be engaged in discussing?—What are they for?]
The amenities of journalism are becoming placidly interesting. The Call speaks of “the usual fiendishness” of the Bulletin.
This may seem a narrow and niggardly view of the matter.—Barnacle [Quite likely, inasmuch as it is your view.]
(Source: California State Library Microfilm Collection)
Articles by Ambrose Bierce and 12 other major American journalists are now available at The Archive of American Journalism.